Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Native Americans Ordered to Remove from the Manor of Pelham in 1675

In 1675, barely five years after John Pell inherited the Manor of Pelham from his uncle, Thomas Pell, King Philip's War broke out. "King Philip," also known as Metacom, was the leader of the Wampanoag Native Americans. War between Native Americans extended from New Hampshire to Connecticut.

That year New York Governor Edmund Andros issued a proclamation ordering the removal of Native Americans from the Manor of Pelham, apparently fearing that isolated groups might be able to band together undetected for an attack on New York City or settlements near the City. One account published in 1881 describes the order as well as the trials and tribulations of one band of Native Americans that tried to comply. An excerpt is quoted immediately below.

"Mid-autumn, 1675, brought new alarms. In vain had the Governor a few weeks before issued a proclamation to assure the people of 'the falsity of late reports of Indians' ill intents.' King Philip's Indians were said to be advancing westward in order to destroy Hartford and other places this way as far as Greenwich. This done, what could stay their onward march to New York? The Governor, to prevent any co-operation on the part of our Indians, immediately directed that their canoes on the shores of the Sound should be laid up where they could not be used, and ordered the Wiekquaskeeks at Ann's Hook, now Pelham Neck -- then on of their summer haunts, and where to our day are many Indian graves -- 'to remove within a fortnight to their usual winter quarters within Hellgate upon this island.'

This winter retreat was either the woodlands between Harlem Plains and Kingsbridge, at that date still claimed by those Indians as hunting-grounds, or Rechawanes and adjoining lands on the Bay of Hellgate, as the words 'within Hellgate' would strictly mean, and which, by the immense shell-beds found there formerly, is proved to have been a favorite Indian resort. That this was the locality referred to, seems indeed to follow from the fact that the Indians, removing in obedience to the above order, attempted to pass up the Harlem River, but were stopped at the village by Constable Demarest. They said they were 'going to Wickquaskee,' but could show no pass. Demarest thereupon detained them, and dispatched a letter to the Governor, to which came the following answer: [Page 366 / Page 367]


I have just now seen, by yours of this day sent express by Wm. Palmer, of your having stopt 10 or 12 Indian canoes, with women, children, corn and baggage, coming as they say from Westchester, and going to Wickers-creek, but nt any Pass mentioned; So that you have done very well in stopping the said Indians and giving notice thereof. These are now to order all the said Indians to stay in your Town, and that you send some of the chiefest of them to me early to-morrow, and one of your Overseers for further orders; and that it may be better effected, you are to order them some convenient house or barn to be in, and draw up their canoes until the return of them you shall send : and that you double your watch.

Your Loving Friend,

N. York, October, the 21st, 1675.

A long and restless night, we dare say, was that to some timid souls, with these Indians, friendly but always distrusted, perhaps prowling about their streets and their very doors, despite the utmost vigilance of the watchmen ; but the morning came without harm to any, and the unwelcome visitors soon departed."

Source: Riker, James, Harlem (City of New York): It's Origin and Early Annals. Prefaced By Home Scenes in the Fatherlands; or Notices of its Founders Before Emigation. Also, Sketches of Numerous Families, and the Recovered History of the Land-Titles. With Illustrations and Maps, pp. 366-67 (NY, NY: Privately Printed 1881).

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